Church of Scotland?

While channel-surfing in an insomnia-induced stupor last night, I came accross an A&E biography about Prince Charles. In it, they mentioned he had brought Ms. Parker-Bowles to a ceremony for something-or-other involving the Church of Scotland, and this had offended a bunch of people, since she is, after all, his mistress.

Anyhoo, leaving aside the palace intrigue, I was wondering: What’s the Church of Scotland? I’ve never heard of that before. Is it related to the Church of England? Is it a wholly seperate protestant-type church? Or something else altogether? Some dude on the show muttered something about it being a fairly conservative church, but that’s all I got. The fact that UK royalty would be involved with it leads me to believe that it is a rather official state institution, like the Church of England.

I always thought the Presbeterian Church was the Church of Scotland - at the very least, I was born in Scotland and my birth certificate lists me as a member of the ‘Presbeterian Church of Scotland’, so thats my take.

The Anglican Communion consists of churches distributed around the world (Provinces) that follow the same traditions and recognise the Archbishop of Canterbury as thier spiritual head, of which the Episcopal Church in the USA is one. There is a Church of Ireland as well as a Church of Wales, although they call themselves “The Church in Wales”. I grew up in the Church of the Province of Southern Africa which was Anglican, although there was confusingly also a “Church of England in South Africa” which was not Anglican at all, so there you go… :wink:

The Presbyterian Church was the church that split from the established church in Scotland as a result of the Reformation.

For a tour of member churches/provinces - see here
For information on how the wider community hangs together - see here


From the horses mouth, so to speak:

To give more detail, the Church of Scotland is the largest church in Scotland. It is protestant in doctrine (and quite different from the Church of England, which has a much closer resemblance to Catholicism). It is Presbyterian in nature. It lacks the hierarchical structure of the Church of England. Congregations are controlled by a council of Elders chosen from the parishioners, and choose their own ministers.

Doctrinally the church is quite liberal, and unlike some Scottish Protestant churches it uses organ music and hymn singing as part of worship. It has had women ministers for decades. The church is not established and has no formal connection with the state (unlike the Church of England). Nonetheless it has long been a part of Scottish public life.

The church was formed following the Reformation in Scotland in the 16th century, and in the 1840s it split, over various doctrinal points (including whether ministers should be appointed by landowners or congregations, as well as more general differences over how liberal or strict the church should be) with the more puritanical Free Church of Scotland (The “Wee Frees”) forming out of the rebels; the Free Church group has been through a number of schisms and reunifications. One of these splits led to the formation of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, now the most extreme group in Scottish Christianity.

The reason the Church in Wales is called the church IN Wales is because it is not a Church of Wales in the same sense as the Church of England. Wales is a principality and does not have its own church.

Given the explosiveness of the issue in Scottish history, quite whether the Church of Scotland is “established” or not is slightly delicate. And largely a matter of what you mean by “established”. There certainly aren’t the close links with the monarchy and state that the Church of England has, but it’s existance is recognised and protected via the Act of Union, the monarch swears to protect it as part of the coronation and they are always a member. On the other hand, the very nature of presbyterianism means that many emphasise the Church’s independence. The Church’s own website, has a brief decription of the relationship.

It’s also worth noting that there’s an international dimension to its history. With the impact the Scots had on the Empire, branches were set up around the globe. Rather than simply being a local, purely Scottish affair, for several centuries the Church of Scotland has been the dominant force in the Calvinist tradition worldwide.